How reading helped billionaire Bill Gates become a philanthropist

Software pioneer Bill Gates’ sole passion was Microsoft during his youth. In the last 1990s, however, the billionaire was struck with a mid-life crisis of sorts as he wanted to do something more meaningful. The career switch was difficult, especially because he was at the pinnacle of conventional success. Reading, a lifelong habit, helped him remedy this conundrum.

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Breakthrough Energy. (Reuters)
Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Breakthrough Energy. (Reuters)

Gates recently opened up about this turning point in his life on Trevor Noah’s podcast.

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Bill Gates described himself as “monomaniacal” when he was between the age of 18 and 40. “Microsoft was everything,” he said.

He was faced with an existential question: “What now?”

However, he didn’t lose hope for a more meaningful life. He kept doing what he had been doing all his life — voraciously consuming books, magazines, newspapers. His reading habit showed him the path he wanted to walk on for the rest of his life.

“I was lucky enough that as other people took over Microsoft, I got to go and read and learn about all the health challenges, why children die,” he said.

In 1997, he and his ex-wife Melinda French Gates read an article about children dying in poor countries of diseases that can be cured easily in the United States. He couldn’t forget the article. Finally in 2020, he stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO and started focusing on philanthropy.

His habit of voracious reading helped him research extensively, enabling him to decide the areas that needed his attention the most.

The rest is history. Since 2000, his foundation has spent over $53.8 billion in fighting global health crises.

Bill Gates has a net worth of 119 billion dollars, according to Forbes. He and his wife Melinda Gate ended their marriage in 2021. They are still the co-chair of the Gates Foundation.

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